Slow Cooker

The Perfect Instant Pot Soy Chicken

November 25, 2019
12 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten. Food Stylist: Drew Aichele. Prop Stylist: Brooke Deonarine.
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

With this recipe, every lover of soy chicken can easily make it at home. Every home chef has an opinion of what goes in this dish, but my signature ingredient is bacon! —GG Wang

Test Kitchen Notes

Growing up, my favorite dish was my mom’s see yao gai (“soy sauce chicken”)—not for the chicken, but for the sauce. I loved how it, alone, upgraded dried mushrooms or a bowl of rice, and would always leave my lips coated in a chickeny sheen. And I wasn’t alone—at a family potluck, I caught Ryan and Kevin, my honorary cousins if not siblings, spooning the sauce straight from the platter (“Dude ... it’s the sauce!”). Too embarrassed to ever exercise my accented Cantonese, I reduced see yao gai to “Brown Sauce Chicken,” and later, for the sake of expediency, “BSC.”

GG Wang’s version, here, a “BSC in an IP” if you will, rids the home cook of any worry of an overcooked bird. But let’s not forget The Sauce: GG’s version is heavily spiced, rich with both light and dark soy, and slicked with the goodness that comes with cooking a whole chicken with bacon (what a signature add!). —Coral Lee

What You'll Need
  • 6 dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated in room temperature water for at least 1 hour
  • 1/2 cup cubed bacon
  • 3 pods star anise
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tablespoon whole white peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil (such as avocado, safflower, or grapeseed)
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar, light or dark
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh ginger
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 3 shallots, peeled and halved
  • 2 scallions, trimmed and cut to 3-inch lengths
  • 2 red chile peppers (such as cayenne)
  • 2 tablespoons fermented black bean sauce (optional)
  • 1/4 cup Shaoxing cooking wine or dry sherry
  • 1/2 cup light soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup dark soy sauce
  • 1 (3 to 3 1/2–pound) whole chicken
  • 1 to 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  1. Crisp the bacon in a medium skillet set over medium heat. Set aside crisped bacon and rendered fat.
  2. In a small, dry pan set over medium-low heat, toast the star anise, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, and peppercorns until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Set aside.
  3. Set the Instant Pot to “Sauté” mode. Add the oil and sugar to the insert of the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized, 7 to 10 minutes. Add ginger, garlic, shallots, scallions, peppers, and fermented black bean sauce (if using). Cook until the aromatics have softened, and are starting to caramelize, another 5 to 7 minutes.
  4. Add the rehydrated mushrooms and their water, toasted spices, crisped bacon, rendered fat, cooking wine, dark soy, and light soy. Stir to combine well, scraping up any browned bits. Add in whole chicken, breast side up, then pour in just enough water to barely cover the chicken. Set the Instant Pot to “Slow Cook,” and the timer for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
  5. Tilting the chicken upwards, lift and drain off any excess sauce. Place chicken on a serving platter and set aside. Fish out the mushrooms, and plate them around the chicken (or just eat them before anyone else notices, yum!).
  6. While the chicken is resting, use a slotted spoon to strain out and discard the rest of the solids. Set the Instant Pot to “Sauté,” and reduce the liquid until slightly thickened, about 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in vinegar and half of the sesame oil, then transfer sauce to a gravy bowl for serving.
  7. The last step seems cosmetic, but it's essential for an eye-popping presentation. Brush the remaining tablespoon of sesame oil all over the bird. Now carve it up and enjoy with your family and friends!

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • PG Rochin
    PG Rochin
  • eatchimac
  • Barbara
  • Laura Echerd
    Laura Echerd
  • Virginia Reichardt
    Virginia Reichardt

40 Reviews

PG R. January 12, 2022
As I have been a home cook for a few decades I never tried anything with an Instant Pot but had this dish in a Cantonese restaurant and it was excellent.

Albeit moist, this dish is a bit of a disaster as it's really a recipe for poached chicken and not the amber picture you see above. The skin is placid, nothing appearing crispy about it. This may be my problem with the IP and not the recipe. This dish prejudices me against the instant pot. The sauce is very flavorful but does not seem to penetrate the chicken well to enhance flavor. I think this recipe is ripe for brining beforehand if you're careful with the brine and length of time for brining.
andmavi December 1, 2021
I love the idea of this recipe. But as noted in the reviews, it did not fully cook in one hour and 30 minutes on slow cook. This probably was due to having a 4 lb. bird. Covering the chicken in water is key, and it also helps to keep the IP on saute so the liquid is very hot before starting slow cook. Since the legs and thighs were still red after 90 minutes, I cooked on high pressure for 5 minutes, but this made the chicken slightly dry and tough. Next time I would up the slow cooker time. Because I had to add more water and soy to cover the bird, the sauce in the end felt slightly watered down. The tantalizing smell of the sauce as it sautéed did not come through in the final preparation. What I would give to get the right balance. The flavor profile is sensational.
Judy L. March 30, 2023
Remember that your IP has High Slow Cook, and Low Slow Cook. Mine worked fine on High.
jcasare October 11, 2021
thanks fo these comments. sounds great and I think I'll try it on the stove...
eatchimac March 30, 2021
Oh, I didn’t try Pot Soy Chicken Recipe. Now I can make it at home. So glad for sharing this recipe Now I can make it at home. It looks delicious. Now I can share your blog with my friend circle. I am so glad after seeing your recipe, Thanks for sharing this recipe. Food is one of the biggest topics of conversation online and offline. Keep it up, I am waiting for your next recipe!
Barbara March 1, 2021
Thanks! I'm so going to make this, but in a 3qt Instant Pot with probably 2 chix thigh/legs. I'm glad you called out the IP pot size in one of the reviews, but please in the future let folks know what size Instant Pot you're using.
Sarah M. June 11, 2020
I had the same experience as Ruby A. below (I wish I'd read the review before I tried it). After 1.5 hours on slow cook, my chicken was completely raw. Ugh.
Laura E. January 9, 2020
Does anyone know if this would be doable in a crock pot? If so, thoughts on cook times?
Barbara October 11, 2021
I would go with the recommended time given for your crockpot. Do it on a day when you're home so you can watch it. There are comments in this thread that speak to 90 minutes not being enough time.
Ruby A. January 7, 2020
Is this correct "Set the Instant Pot to “Slow Cook,” and the timer for 1 hour and 30 minutes"? I tried it and at the end my chicken was still completely raw.... is it maybe supposed to be on the pressure cook option for 1 hours and 30 minutes?
GG W. January 8, 2020
Sorry you are having trouble with the Instant Pot. Sometimes I have to press the "Start" button twice to get the cooking process started. About your second question, the short answer is no, this is not designed as a pressure cook recipe.
Ruby A. January 8, 2020
Thanks for your response, but I guess I'm a little skeptical now. In a regular crockpot slowcooker it takes 4-6 hours to cook a whole chicken (and that's without water added). Are Instant pot slow cookers really that much faster?
GG W. January 8, 2020
Good point. I don't have a crockpot so I can only talk about my Instant Pot. Submerging the whole bird in liquid makes the cooking process "poaching." (I haven't tried dry cooking on my Instant Pot, but I suspect the principle is akin to the Moroccan Tagine, where temperature needs to be A LOT higher to produce steam.) There is a wonderful feature on my Instant Pot that I can set the slow cooking at a certain temperature. Low is about 170-180 degrees. Sometimes, a small chicken is ready in 1 hour on "low." I've also tried 1 hour on medium, but the texture isn't same. Not bad, just different. My Mom likes it more on "low." Hope this helps. - GG
GG W. January 8, 2020
*a small chicken is ready in 1 hour on "low" liquids!
dcxgod April 12, 2020
Is the liquid supposed to have come to a boil prior to the slow cook process? I had a concern with the slow cook setting on my IP not being able to fully cook the chicken. I had tried it for about 30m, but the liquid was barely lukewarm when I opened the lid.

For this reason, I adjusted the recipe slightly.

I set it on pressure cook high setting for 0 minutes, natural vent for about 20 minutes, just in case.
Donna F. July 26, 2020
Yeah the instructions are dead wrong. Low pressure for 90 minutes and you have a winner
linzertorte March 19, 2021
Same experience. It's's counting down...she raw.

I'm so hungry :(
Barbara October 11, 2021
A 3 to 3.5 lb chicken is not small. A 2kg bird is just a bit over four lbs.
Jkgourmet January 4, 2020
"1 cup (3-3 1/2 pounds) whole chicken" Which is it - 1 cup OR a whole chicken?
"Add in chicken, breast side up, then pour in just enough water to barely cover the chicken." Isn't that going to use A LOT of water and dilute that delicious sounding sauce?
Can black peppercorns be used instead of white?
GG W. January 4, 2020
The "1 cup" thing is just the web form. I probably should try for "1 piece" of whole chicken. As for adding water, this recipe is best for the 6-quart Instant Pot. If your slow cooker is bigger, don't be afraid to up light and dark soy sauce. It's true the bigger your pot, the longer it needs to reduce the sauce after the chicken is out. Sometimes, I just transfer the whole pot into a deep pan on the stove and turn up the heat for like 20 minutes. Yes to black pepper! Have fun.
GG W. January 4, 2020
*whole pot of liquids
Arthur December 27, 2021
The light and dark soy sauce ratio should be tripled or quadrupled at a minimum.

I just tried this recipe with a six qt IP. The sauce was sauteed when I put in the bird and the water. The chicken was perfectly cooked, and the aromatics were terrific, but the soy sauce ratio was off. I had to put in a lot of water to make sure the liquids covered the chicken (went all the way to the max line!).

I suspect it also matters what kind of chicken. If you can get the free-range, lean Chinese chicken (smaller breast), you might be able to get away with the recipe's soy sauce ratio.
Virginia R. January 3, 2020
Way too many ingredients
paseo January 4, 2020
A gratuitous comment. It does not call for anything hard to find (I live in the ethnic wasteland of VT) and having made it, it's well worth the effort. And the leftovers are terrific.
jayebe January 7, 2020
Really? Why are you here? This is a website for people who want recipes full of flavor, which in Asian food means lots of really tasty spices and funky sauces. I would expect that most of the people reading this recipe have all the ingredients in their pantry already. I certainly do. Its kinda central to the whole foodie thing.....have a well stocked pantry so that you can whip up butter chicken, or red cooked pork with bao and scallion pancakes, or mujadara as the mood strikes. Now I'm gonna take a whole chicken out of the freezer (home grown and processed....foodie, remember?) and in the morning I'm gonna cut it up for butter chicken and, of course, reserve the bits and bones for stock. Cook well eat well sister foodies. No recipe is too complex for us.
jayebe January 7, 2020
Ooops. Almost forgot...need to take a pound of home cured bacon out of the freezer as well.
GG W. January 8, 2020
Bacon, a.k.a Adult Candy. :-)
Chris D. January 19, 2020
Ok. That’s just shameless bragging ; P
Barbara October 11, 2021
In most recipes, the onions are a matter of choice and strength. You can substitute nearly any for whatever is called for. Look here: I have to cope with substitutions all the time. But I can tell you that onions, except for yellow onions, which are the strongest, are virtually interchangeable until you get to the Michelin star level.
Use molasses (I use blackstrap molasses) for the dark soy sauce. I regularly do that. I would not sub out the Shaoxing wine -- it's a very unique flavor that once you tasted it in a dish, you will miss it. Sub the Chinese black vinegar for any mild vinegar -- even apple cider. Let's get real -- any mild, not fruity vinegar will do. Don't get me wrong, I'm totally making this recipe, I just know what I have to do to make it a success while living in Japan.
Jesse R. January 2, 2020
I’ll make this dish now!! Extra crispy!
Chris D. January 19, 2020
How are you getting it crispy if it is poached in the instant pot. I was wondering about this too. I am thinking of attempting with a turkey breast for less time and then finishing in oven but that is a lot of experimentation. So if you know how to get it crispy please share. I just got my pot and not sure this is an option.
micook January 2, 2020
galangal is not listed in the ingredients. . .
GG W. January 3, 2020
Good eye! The editor put the galangal as "if using." Once I travel outside of NYC, fresh or dried galangal is hard to get.
JudiAU January 3, 2020
This recipe need to be updated with the quantity of galangal, which also need to be listed as an ingredient so I shop for it.
jayebe January 7, 2020
So what is the answer? What measure of galanga is called for? My guess is half the amount of the ginger, added at the same time and fished out at the same time.
GG W. January 8, 2020
Galangal is optional. If using fresh, it should be 1:1 with ginger. If using dry, 1/4 cup. Hope that helps.
Ron R. December 23, 2019
Awesome dish!!!
Thulan U. December 22, 2019
I am usually scared to cook chicken that is not very basic grilled chicken, but this recipe was the perfect guide, plus it was absolutely DELICIOUS.
Huong M. December 22, 2019
Delicious and yummy soy glazed chicken in an Insta-Pot, brilliantly executed.
Thank You! Can't wait to make it again and again.
FP C. December 2, 2019
A treat for the eyes, with that glowing golden glaze, and even more for the mouth when you dig in. LOVE THIS!!